Setting up company toolbars/menus in AutoCAD (2005+)

So today’s post is more of a customization topic.  Routinely, we run across customer’s who have tools that they want loaded into AutoCAD.  Sometimes they way they’ve loaded them, means that they’ll have to work extra-hard to make sure everyone get’s a copy.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to have our laptop and our settings whether we’re on site or in the office.  However, that type of setup is actually pretty complicated to accomplish.  Due to the level of difficulty, we can’t cover that in a blog post. 

I haven’t been around too long (started on AutoCAD 2006), and when I got into AutoCAD I started to learn about making buttons.  At that time, CUI had just broken burst onto the scene.  Users were posting that AutoCAD was doomed, and no person in their right mind would ever make such a change to something that was so perfect Smile.

Admittedly, there were some glitches at the start, but most of the struggle with CUI comes by trying to get our head around how the files are structured.

Since AutoCAD 2005, we have a couple key option settings from the Files tab:

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The Main Customization file and the Enterprise Customization file.  These two files control toolbars, menus, ribbon panels, workspaces and more.  You’ll notice that the default Main customization file is called acad (.cuix). This file contains all of the AutoCAD menus and UI functionality.  Most people end up customizing this file and putting addon’s and such inside of it.

The better practice is to use a partial cuix to load your customizations.  Enter CUI at the command line, and switch to the transfer tab.

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You can save this file on your network if you’d like.  For example, I’m going to save mine at K:\MyCompany.cuix.  At this point, all we’ve done is to create a blank new file, we don’t actually have any customization done, AND it’s not even loaded into the current session.

To work on the file, you’re going to have to load it as a partial into the Main Customization file. So switch back to the Customize tab, scroll done to the bottom of the left pane, and right-click on Load Partial Customization files.  Remember the drop down at the top must be set to All Customization Files.

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Select the file we just saved from the file selection dialog box.  From there you can customize the file adding menus and buttons however you like.

Before finishing up here are a few great tips to keep in mind as you customize AutoCAD.

1. Make a backup of the cui’s before you edit them (self-preservation).  The first time I tried messing with CUI’s I made all my toolbars disappear and it took me 8 hours to figure out what happened…I didn’t touch CUI for a MONTH after that.

2.  As you can see from the screen shots, there is a place to load lisp files with a CUI. However, AutoCAD will automatically load a .mnl file that matches the name of the CUI.  So if I have a MyCompany.cuix, I can also have a MyCompany.mnl that gets loaded without me having to specify it.  I’d keep these on the network together.

3.  Avoid messing with files that AutoCAD uses for loading out of the box.  Personal pet-peeve of mine.  Since so many add-on programs (even Autodesk Verticals) like to use an acad.rx (CADWorx), acaddoc.lsp, etc., not having your setup married to one of these will save you in the long run if you have to start using verticals.

4.  AutoCAD has a installation method called Deployment (or creating a Deployment).  I like this because I can for everyone to have the support paths I want (like for my lisp files and printers), as well as forcing the Enterprise cui to be set (like to MyCompany.cuix)…AND I don’t have to fix each user’s computer every time they install or break something. 

5.  When you load a CUI as an Enterprise file, it will be read-only inside of AutoCAD.  However, you can still load the Enterprise file as a partial (in another profile) to make changes.  You’ll have to make the Enterprise CUI read-only with proper file permissions to completely protect it.

If you are running verticals or multiple versions of AutoCAD in the same office, there are other considerations that need to be made.  Look up Robert Bell /CUI on the internet.  He has a lot of great stuff and teaches at Autodesk University on the topic regularly.